Nothing beats a pair of quality hiking pants for a day, week, or even a month or more out on the trails. To help you find the best pair for your hiking adventure, we investigated over 70 of the top pairs available on the market today, eventually selecting the 12 best pairs for inclusion in this comparative review. We conducted extensive hands-on testing of these pants in diverse seasons and locations, including the Colorado Rockies, Pacific Northwest, and the Utah Desert, all so we could recommend the best pairs for your needs. Not only did we hike extensively in each pair, but we also wore these pants while rock climbing, working outside, hanging out on the town, and traveling around the country and world, all so we could bring you the best perspective on which pair to buy. Whether you need a new pair for hot weather or cold, dry climates or rainy, this review has you covered with some optimal recommendations.
The Best Hiking Pants for Men
In May of 2018, we added two pairs of pants that we have been wearing and testing all spring to this already comprehensive review. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is a user favorite that landed at the very top of the rating chart, inspiring us to crown them our new Best Overall winners. We also added in the Prana Brion, a very simple but classy pant that is light on features but heavy on comfort. These newcomers are in addition to our recently tested (January 2018), and Best Buy winner for convertible pants, The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible.
Best Overall Hiking Pant
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
A great pair of hiking pants are super comfortable and highly mobile, keep you cool as you work up a sweat hiking uphill, and can be worn on almost any day that you want to get outside. Taking all these factors into account, we found the Outdoor Research Ferrosi to be the best pair of hiking pants that you can buy. They are made of durable ripstop fabric that features an astounding 14% spandex fibers, ensuring that they are mobile enough for hiking, running, yoga, high stepping on the rock — literally anything! They are also very light, thin, and are so breathable that they are the perfect choice for hot weather. Their ankle cuff cinch cords add a lot of versatility, allowing you to easily roll them up for more ventilation if needed, or cinch the cuffs tight around your boot tops to serve similar to gaiters. And did we mention that they are one of the most affordable pairs? What's not to like?
Well, a couple of things, which isn't a surprise since no piece of outdoor equipment is perfect. The super thin 90D ripstop fabric is, without doubt, the most breathable that we tested, but we suffered a little bit on cold, cloudy, and windy days where they didn't provide quite enough protection for our skinny legs. Another knock is that the waist sizing is a bit off: our standard size immediately needed a belt (not included) to even be wearable. Consider sizing down. OR markets these pants as an alpine climber's dream, but we thought they worked even better as all-purpose hiking pants that especially shine in hot weather.
Read Review: Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Best Climbing Pant
Prana Stretch Zion
For years, the Prana Stretch Zion has been one of our favorite hiking and trekking pants. There are also far and away our favorite pant to climb in, a testament to their durability and versatility. We loved the cargo pocket with zippers on two sides, enabling us to easily reach our phone or topo while sitting at a belay, as well as the small waist tightener that allows us to wear these pants without a belt. This feature is also great for keeping the waist fitting perfectly after a week or two on the trail. Combined with the softest and most comfortable stretchy fabric of any of the choices we tested, it is no wonder these pants were one of the highest scorers in our overall rankings. If you prefer convertibles to give you the choice of pants vs. shorts, we still highly recommend the Stretch Zion Convertible, which is essentially the same pant with double cargo pockets and zip off lower legs.
While these were our absolute favorite pair of pants for climbing in, we did notice that they had a few flaws. For one, the fabric is a bit heavy and densely woven for hiking in hot weather. They work much better when the temps are on the cooler side. They also aren't as water resistant as most, so be warned if wet weather is in your future. If you are looking for a supremely comfortable pair of hiking pants, or perhaps never want to have to look for another pair of pants ever again, then we would recommend trying on the Prana Stretch Zion. If you want to save $10 and don't need a cargo pocket or cuff snaps, we highly recommend the Prana Brion, which uses the same comfortable fabric, but in a simpler design that looks a bit better around town.
Read Review: Prana Stretch Zion
Best Bang for the Buck
The Patagonia Quandary is a very simple and comfortable hiking pant made of stretchy recycled nylon and cut in a slim, straight fit. We thought it was stylish and unassuming off the trail while doing an awesome job of balancing weather protection and the ability to stay cool while hiking. Best of all, it was among the most affordable pants in this review and considering it was one of the highest scorers; this made it the optimal choice for our Best Bang for the Buck Award. Usually, if you want to spend the least amount of money on gear, you will have to compromise a bit on performance, but not so here! The Quandary Pant offers the best of both worlds, combining affordability with superior comfort, mobility, and water protection.
While these pants are relatively breathable, they don't offer much in the way of ventilation. Combine this fact with a very slim straight fit, and there is the possibility they could feel claustrophobic to some; dudes with powerlifter thighs should probably look elsewhere. This is a pant that will genuinely thrive for hours, days, or even months on the trail, but wouldn't be our top choice for heavy manual labor or abrasive rock climbing. For those who want to spend the least amount of money on their pants, but don't want to compromise on materials or performance, the Patagonia Quandary is our recommendation for you.
Read Review: Patagonia Quandary
Best Value for a Convertible
The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible
Not only is this the least expensive convertible pant we tested, but it's also one of the best values of any hiking pant we've seen. Despite the low price, it comes loaded with more features than most of the competition. It has five pockets including two long cargo pockets that easily fit a larger map. The integrated belt features a flat face that is relatively comfortable under a backpacking waist belt. Rear zips allow ventilation and for the pant to fit over bigger boots.
About all it lacks is stretchy material. If you want this, you need to pay another $20 for the Paramount 3.0 Convertible. The 3.0 also has a slightly different pocket configuration and pant length. Between the two, we prefer having the stretch of the spandex /nylon blend of the 3.0, but we're not sure it's worth $20. If you want a more stretchy convertible pant, we'd go with the Stretch Zion.
Read Review: The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible
Most Versatile Hiking Pants
KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible
Hiking is an excellent way to explore the landscape anywhere on earth, and the most versatile hiking pant will be able to keep you fresh as you traverse the blistering heat of the Mojave Desert just as well as it protects you from the chill winds high in the Sierra. If you are looking for that one pair of uber-pants that can handle it all better than the rest, look no further than the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible. We found its heavy, stretchy nylon to be an optimal shield against both wind and sun, not to mention trailside brush and abrasive dirt and rock. The option to convert them into shorts makes the Renegade Cargo Convertible a perfect choice for mountain travel where temperatures fluctuate rapidly, and we loved wearing them as shorts by day, and pants once the sun got lower in the sky.
On the downside, we found the zipper that allows for pants to shorts conversion to be noticeable as it rubs across the upper thigh, but then again this is an issue with all convertible pants. We were also surprised to find that the front button often came undone by itself with a bit of pressure and stretch, but at least it didn't "ping" off and fly across the room! With their durable fabric and stylish fit, these pants took "do everything" to a new level, as we think they are a fantastic choice for other activities besides just hiking. While traveling, camping, climbing, or working in the yard, we always loved how these pants fit and performed, which is why we chose to recommend them as our Top Pick for Versatility.
Read Review: KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible
Top Pick for Wet Weather
Some landscapes on earth are virtually synonymous with heavy rainfall: the North Cascades, the South Island of New Zealand, or the Kanchenjunga region of the Himalaya. Hiking in these areas almost guarantees that you will end up getting wet, so a water resistant hiking pant should be a top priority if you have a trip to these or other wet climates in mind. Most of the pants that we tested for this review claim to have some durable water resistant (DWR) coating applied to help them shed water before it absorbs into the fabric, but only the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant accomplished this task efficiently, making it our Top Pick for Wet Weather. It's made of a stretchy blend of nylon and elastane that reminds one of a more technical mountain pant but in very lightweight form.
Of course, worth pointing out is that despite being the most water resistant in this review, these pants were nowhere near waterproof, and cannot be substituted for actual rain pants in a downpour. We also found the nylon fabric to be a bit more abrasive against the skin compared to its smoother and softer counterparts — a trait we often noticed when putting them on, but then immediately forgot as we got on with our day. The Perimeter Pant balances supple mobility and breathability with more than adequate water resistance for most hiking adventures, and although it wasn't one of the highest overall scorers, it's our first choice if we know that rain is on its way.
Read Review: Arc'teryx Perimeter
Notable for Incredible Durability
Fjallraven Vidda Pro
For some people, hiking is not so much about strolling along a perfectly manicured trail as it is about bushwacking, scrambling through difficult terrain, and getting very dirty. For these types, we recommend checking out the unique Fjallraven Vidda Pro, a tried and true design that comes to us from the backwoods of Sweden. The most interesting feature of these pants is that they are designed to be "impregnated" with Fjallraven's Greenland wax, in much the same way that one might wax their skis, to add durability and water resistance in the same way that our ancestors did in the days before Gore-Tex and high-tech synthetic fabrics.
With this unique design comes a few significant downsides, such as heavy materials that trap heat far more than their competition. They are also quite expensive and look more a bit more technical Euro than metro-sexual. It is not an exaggeration to think of these pants as high-quality, reinforced, and ethically sourced army surplus pants, and they will thrive as a do-it-all option for the rough wearer: hunting, bushcraft, and winter ranching. While they weren't the highest scorers in our stretchy nylon-heavy review, they set themselves apart for their durability and toughness, notable and admirable qualities for any pair of pants.
Read Review: Fjallraven Vidda Pro
Analysis and Test Results
We tested most of these pants over a three-month period in a variety of locations, including the Cascades of Oregon, the desert of Southern Utah, and the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. A few other pairs were added in as we had the chance to test them. The majority of our testing took place on hikes and camping adventures, where we used these pants as they were intended to be used. To accurately rate each product, we assessed them based upon five separate metrics that play a critical role in the optimal performance and quality of a hiking pant: comfort and mobility, venting and breathability, versatility, water resistance, and features. For certain products or metrics where we were not able to reach solid conclusions in the field, we devised more controlled comparative tests described below.
For each metric that we assessed for, we assigned each pant a score of 1-10. We then weighted each parameter based upon its relative importance to the function and combined all the scores to come up with an overall score between 1-100. In all cases, we rated pants based on their performance compared to the competition. Since we selected the twelve best pairs of hiking pants from an exhaustive list of over 70 options, a poor score means that it wasn't as good as the other 11 excellent pairs of pants in our review, and doesn't imply that it is an awful product. It's possible that a particular metric may be far more important to you than it was in our scoring system. If so, we encourage you to pay very close attention to that metric and dive deeper into the individual reviews to find out exactly how a given pant performed. Below we will describe each review metric in detail, including how we assessed for it, how much that metric contributed to the overall score, and let you know which were the best scoring products for each metric.
An important consideration that almost anyone can appreciate while shopping for new clothing or equipment is value. While the adage, "You get what you pay for" often rings true, our years of testing experience has taught us that one can usually find great products for far less than top of the line pricing. This fact becomes increasingly important for those who are working hard to outfit themselves with an entire backpacking or trekking kit. Choosing the best value for all of the necessary purchases could end up saving you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in the end.
Check out the chart below, which plots price versus performance, a good indicator of value. Pants found on the right side of the chart had the highest performance grades from our testing, while pants near the bottom of the chart are available for the lowest price. If you are searching for the best value, then, look to the products in the lower right. As the chart shows, most of the pants in this review fall relatively close to each other in performance as well as price, and so there are many choices if you are searching for the best value.
Comfort and Mobility
It stands to reason that the most critical consideration for any piece of clothing is how comfortable it is. If you are distracted by something that you are wearing, then your attention is being taken away from what you are doing.
Comfort, then, could be defined as a lack of distraction, where the pant moves and flows with you as you move; never obstructing, never pinching, never rubbing, never annoying, never distracting. If a pant isn't comfortable to wear, you won't care about the rest of the metrics we measured for you here, because you won't consider wearing the pants long enough to care whether the pockets are in convenient places or the stitching is durable.
Comfort goes hand-in-hand with mobility. Hiking pants need to be able to move and bend like you, and this is a crucial component to keeping your pants off your mind. While all of the pants reviewed are constructed primarily of nylon, some incorporate small percentages of stretchy material, such as spandex or elastane to help them stretch and move without hindering, and others use blends of cotton to improve the feel against the skin.
Some pants, such as the Patagonia Quandary fit slim, but have incredible stretching properties, keeping them mobile. On the other hand, a couple of options, such as the Fjallraven Vidda Pro pants, have no stretchiness built into the fabric but instead promote mobility by incorporating a looser, baggier cut.
The pants that were the most comfortable were constructed using a soft material that felt great against the skin. They also had the fewest restrictions in the cut where we noticed tightness or rubbing and had the stretchiest and most mobile fabrics. The Prana Stretch Zion did the best job of incorporating all these factors, providing the most comfortable, mobile, and relaxing fit. The very similar Prana Brion, which uses the same fabric and has the same cut as the Stretch Zion, likewise scored at the top of the pile. Close behind was the stretchy and mobile Patagonia Quandary, as well as the similarly stretchy Outdoor Research Ferrosi, which only missed out on a top score for comfort because the sizing of the waist was entirely off. Comfort varies based on body size and type, so be sure to read the individual reviews to get an idea of how each pant fits. Overall, Comfort and Mobility accounted for 35% of a product's final score.
Venting and Breathability
Those of us who like to hike in pants can appreciate their ability to protect us from wind, sun, cold, and brush. However, spend enough time walking around outside in pants, and you are going to experience some severe heat buildup, not to mention sweating. That's why it's essential to have a pant that can vent and breathe well. Breathability is the ability of fabric to allow heat and especially moisture to travel from the inside to the outside through the material while venting refers to the ability to open up pockets or zippers to more quickly allow hot, moist air to escape and cool one off.
Through our many months of testing, we found that venting is the most effective and efficient way of cooling off when overheating in a pair of pants, so features like zippered vents, mesh lined pockets, and roll-able cuffs factored heavily into a product's score. Most of the pants featured a tight, nylon weave that severely limited direct air transfer — good for wind protection, but not as efficient for breathability.
To test venting and breathability, we mostly relied on our time field testing. Much of this time was spent wandering around in the sun in the desert, perfect for understanding how well a pant will breathe while exerting oneself in the sun. Other times we hiked uphill, as one usually does in the mountains, building up the heat and sweat needed for some serious study. Not content with these "uncontrolled" tests, we also decided to test all the pants in a controlled situation. We took them out to a steep hill in the sun, worked up a sweat, and ran up the hill as fast as we could in each different pair of pants, paying close attention to how hot and uncomfortable each pair felt, especially compared to the others. While we found it impossible to quantify the results of this test numerically, we easily noticed what models felt cooler than others.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the pants made of the lightest and thinnest fabric did the best job of breathing, while the pants with the most mesh and zippered vents cooled us off the quickest and prevented us from getting too sweaty in the first place. The OR Ferrosi were the lightest, thinnest, and by far the most breathable pants in this test, making them a primo choice for wearing in hot climates. On the other hand, the REI Co-op Screeline was the clear winner in the venting department, thanks to its generous mesh vents, especially behind the knees. The KUHL Kontra Air was right behind, using a combination of a ton of venting as well as a thin and light cotton blend fabric. The KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible also had a ton of vents, not to mention the ability to simply convert them to shorts, should the desire arise. The pants that we found to be the hottest, interpreted here as the least breathable, were also the thickest and heaviest and had the least vents. With its extraordinarily dense and heavy G-1000 fabric and no vents, the Fjallraven Vidda Pro was a pant designed exclusively for cooler weather. Venting and Breathability accounted for 15% of a product's final score.
On many hiking adventures, you will travel light, sometimes only having the luxury to take what you are wearing when you walk out the door.
Whether you are going for a day hike or planning an extended backpacking trip, you will be happier in a single pair of pants that work across a range of conditions and temperatures. The ideal pants can protect your legs from most conditions all on the same hike. A pair of super versatile pants should have no problem handling situations ranging from intense sun and heat, wind, rain, cold, or brush along the trail.
The convertible feature helps with a pant's versatility. If it is too hot or you become too sweaty, that problem can be quickly solved by unzipping the bottoms and turning them into shorts. In general, pants that were convertible scored higher for versatility. Only a couple pairs of convertible pants were tested for this review, these being the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible and The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible. However, a couple of other pairs, such as the Prana Stretch Zion and The North Face Paramount 3.0 are also available for purchase in convertible options.
Another less critical aspect of versatility is whether the pants excel at other activities besides just hiking. For instance, on a long thru-hike, you may find yourself swimming, stretching out with some yoga, climbing a tree (for any number of reasons!), or in an impromptu bouldering session. How well you can do these things in one pair of pants affects how we scored them for versatility. While these pants are designed for hiking, pants are pants, and it is nice to be able to wear them around town during our regular lives if need be, and this factor also contributed slightly to a pant's versatility score.
Made with durable nylon and offering many venting options, not to mention the ability to convert into shorts, we found the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible to be the most versatile pants that we tested for this review. They kept us cool while hiking uphill in the sun, and were also thick enough to protect us from the cold and wind. We also liked them for wearing around town or while working outside and found them to be an adequate climbing pant as well. A close second was the Prana Stretch Zion, which we found to be a warmer pant overall, but which also comes with a convertible option. Lastly, The North Face Paramount 3.0 was a sleek and stylish pant that we found served us well whether out hiking with a pack on or traveling the world. Its light and the stretchy fabric was excellent against the wind and also offered superb sun protection, and it also has a convertible option. Overall, versatility accounted for 15% of a product's final score.
Let's face it; if you are going out on a multi-day backpacking trip, chances are you are going to get rained on at some point. Becoming soaked to the bone is a backcountry traveler's worst nightmare, but that fear must be weighed against the alternative — carrying a lot of extra clothing and weight. For multi-day trips, water resistance is a huge bonus for a pair of hiking pants, but it also matters if you happen to live or hike in a wet climate regularly. We used to consider wind resistance as well when assessing for a hiking pant's performance but have found that all the pairs that we tested are functionally wind resistant due to their tightly woven fabrics.
Most of these pants are designed to keep you as dry as possible, but are not specialty rain layers, and are not waterproof. Most of them come with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating applied to the outside. This chemical coating helps the fabric shed water upon contact, preventing it from being absorbed into the material. It is worth noting that these layers break down and wear off over time, especially if you wash your pants frequently in the washing machine, so if you are heading out on a long trip with an older pair of pants, you should apply a new DWR finish before you begin.
To test water resistance, we wore these pants outside as often as we could in poor weather. Admittedly, though, our head tester lives high in the mountains of Colorado and tested these pants primarily in fall, when high pressure and sunshine tend to dominate the forecast. Testing conditions ranged from hiking in the snowy mountains (which is not the weather that most people consider hiking in) to sunny and dry in the desert (again, no rain). To determine how these pants performed in a rainstorm, we also conducted the shower test, where we put the pants on and jumped into the shower to see what happened. Using a misting spray nozzle to spritz the outside of the pants lightly helped us understand exactly how much airborne water a pant could effectively repel before getting soaked. Things we looked for were how well the DWR coating worked after three months of testing and washing, whether the fabric tended to absorb water, how wet our legs got inside the pants, and how long the pants took to dry out after being hung up (post shower).
The most weather resistant pant was the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant, which we awarded our Top Pick for Wet Weather. The DWR coating did a great job of shedding water even after lots of abuse, and the slippery nylon fabric didn't absorb water like many of the others. It was also fast to dry out once removed from the "rain," since it hadn't absorbed much water in the first place. The Patagonia Quandary performed nearly as well, incorporating an effective DWR coating with non-absorbent and fast drying stretchy nylon weave fabric. We were also very intrigued by the performance of the wax impregnated Fjallraven Vidda Pro pant, which eschews the now-standard chemical DWR coating in favor of a more natural and customizable wax one. Weather resistance accounted for 15% of a product's final score.
The final category that differentiates the best pairs of hiking pants from the worst is their respective features. These are the little things that you love or drive you nuts. Every pair has their own set of unique features, including the type of pockets and location, waist tightening systems, and belts, the zipper system to convert into shorts, vertical cuff zippers, cuff roll-up buttons, cuff tighteners, ventilation holes, and crotch zippers. Some of these features were functional additions that inspired our adoration, while others were superfluous or maddening.
In all cases, we attempted to rate the product based on whether the features were useful and if they worked well. In most cases, having the option to convert to shorts was useful, but we also rated this feature on how well the zippers functioned, how easy they were to convert compared to the other pants, and how they looked and felt. We did a similar analysis of pocket layout and location, as well as for waist tightening systems.
In short, the more useful and functional features a pant included, the higher the score. Products that received a lower rating either included few useful features, or the ones that were included didn't function nearly as well as competitors.
Our Top Pick for Versatility, the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible pant also had the best feature set. It had a ton of pocket options for those who like to have all their trail trinkets handy and organized, as well as excellent ventilation and the ability to convert to shorts. The KUHL Kontra Air has an entirely different set of pockets and ventilation designs that also worked better than the rest. Lastly, our Editors' Choice winning Prana Stretch Zion had fewer pockets than the two KUHL pants, but the design and execution of its features were nearly flawless. We loved the small, low profile waist tightener that allowed us to backpack and climb without wearing a belt. Features accounted for 15% of a product's final score.
Pants specifically designed for hiking are the best choice for trekking or backpacking in just about any environment. The challenge comes when trying to decide which ones to buy. While comfort is usually a top priority, the climate in which you spend most of your time can dictate what features are most important to you. We hope that this expert review of the most highly rated and popular hiking pants on the market will help you make an optimal choice. Happy trails to you!
— Andy Wellman
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.